The numbers keep increasing at West Virginia University.

Enrollment is expected to exceed 25,000 students for the fall semester�€the largest number of students ever enrolled in the history of WVU , President David C. Hardesty Jr. announced Thursday (Aug. 19) during a briefing at the Universitys Creative Arts Center. New student life initiatives, academic programs and facility improvements also were unveiled.

The 25,000 enrollment projection represents an increase of more than 700 students from last years record enrollment of 24,260. Hardesty said WVU expects around 4,400 freshmen this fall�€at or near the record of first-time students set last year.

While these numbers are estimates and a clearer enrollment picture will not be known until October, we are quite certain that once again WVU will set a new record in total enrollment,Hardesty said.Students from West Virginia and all over the eastern half of the United States are choosing WVU because of our excellent faculty; outstanding, cutting-edge academic programs; reasonable tuition; the states PROMISE Scholarship; additional scholarship assistance from the Foundation and Alumni Association that are both need- and merit-based; the emphasis on high-caliber and unique student life initiatives; and our new facilities and competitive athletic programs.

Hardesty noted the excellent credentials of the incoming freshman class with an average grade-point average of 3.32, average ACT score of 22.8, and average SAT score of 1063. The average freshman ACT score at WVU is above the average West Virginia ACT score of 20.5 and the national average of 20.9.

The president also noted the high quality of life in Morgantown as a contributing factor to the increase in students.

The University and the city are continually working to make this community a great place to live and attend college,Hardesty said.It is truly one of the best small cities in America anchored by one of the best universities in America.

* Housing *

Officials said approximately 5,100 students will be living in University-owned halls or leased facilities this semester. The leased facilities include those that have been used by the University in the past including Sterling University Ridge Apartments, Pierpont Apartments and Summit Suites Apartments.

Hardesty noted WVU s long-term housing plan, announced earlier, calls for building two new residence halls, the purchase of a private facility the University is currently leasing ( Summit), and renovating the four Towers.

Once completed, the $40 million, 10-year project will give us approximately 1,100 more spaces and bring our housing capacity to some 4,800,Hardesty said.

* Student Life Initiatives *

University officials also announced a pilot residence hall security program. Last year, card-swiping machines, similar to those found in hotels, were installed on the interior doors at Fieldcrest Hall. Over the summer, more were added to the exterior doors.

Over the summer, WVU instituted a new student identification process. Social Security numbers have been replaced by new nine-digit ID numbers. The new system provides a more secure data environment for personal information and meets new federal guidelines, officials said.

Be assured, student safety and security are a top priority,said Ken Gray, vice president for student affairs.

Gray also announced the establishment of a Student Infoline�€an initiative brought forward by the WVU Student Government Association. Students can dial 293-5555 to find answers to a variety of questions about classes, housing, transportation, directions or even personal concerns.

New Welcome Week activities kick off Friday (Aug. 20), Gray said. Activities include campus tours, Student Service Days, an open house for commuters and transfer students and information booths.

Move-in day at the residence halls is also Friday, with activities for freshmen�€known as the JumpStart Academy�€running through Sunday with a picnic, Student Organization Fair, New Student Convocation and more.

WVU s back-to-school FallFest concert will be held in a new location�€thegreenbetween the Life Sciences and Business and Economics buildings�€because the Mountainlair Plaza is undergoing renovations, Gray said. Bands performing this year include Fuel, Kanye West, Trapt and Particle.

Kickoff for online ticketing is Sunday, Aug. 29, Gray said, in advance of WVU s season opener on Sept. 4 against East Carolina. Students tired of waiting in line can now go online for home football game tickets. With WVU s new student-friendly system, a simple click of the mouse takes them to the action.

* Academic Initiatives *

This fall, students will be able to major in criminology and investigation, a new program in the Division of Sociology and Anthropology. This major focuses on the social side and human dynamics of crime and supports the Universitys popular forensic science initiative.

Another new program�€the graduate certificate in forensic accounting and fraud investigation�€has already proved to be a popular offering. The program graduated 17 students earlier this month.

WVU continues to attract a record number of students because of new programs like these, as well as strong academic programs like engineering, business administration, journalism, pharmacy, nursing, education and psychology,said Provost Gerald Lang.

He also announced that professors have been recruited to fill five new endowed academic positions that are funded by gifts made during WVU s recent capital campaigns.

The particular endowed positions have allowed us to attract distinguished faculty from across the nation to our campus,Lang said.It is our students who will benefit from their talent.

The provost also welcomed some 1,500 new PROMISE scholars to WVU this fall. Another 1,900 PROMISE scholars are returning to campus for their sophomore and junior years, and about 50 have transferred to WVU from other schools, he noted.

* Facility Improvements *

Work has begun on the Mountainlair Plaza and the parking garage beneath the plaza, officials said. The renovated plaza will feature a new artificial playing turf, basketball court, terraced walkways, increased lighting, and tables and seating situated among shade trees and shrubbery.

Improvements and/or additions to several athletic facilities are also nearing

completion or continuing, including new stadium suites and club seating at Mountaineer Field; a state-of-the-art soccer complex; and upgrades to the Coliseum.

This aggressive renovation program will bring our athletic facilities in line with some of the best in Division I college athletics anywhere in the country,Hardesty said.

WVU is in the design phase of a $10 million plant pathology addition to the Agricultural Sciences Building, and in the process of hiring architects for renovations to Brooks, Oglebay and Colson Halls on the downtown campus.

With another record student enrollment projected, exciting new student life initiatives and quality academic programs in place, we couldnt be more excited about the start of another fall semester,Hardesty said.